The Man met Blake and Ally first, while he was still working in the parking lot at the very popular trailhead on the top of the mountain. They pulled in with Blake at the wheel of their short, white (former) school bus named Gus the Bliss Bus. Ally and Blake wanted to know about the nearby attractions, so The Man sent them down to the Mercantile to get all the info from me. Unfortunately, they overshot the Mercantile by about 10 miles and ended up in a small community where a restaurant, bar, general store, and lodge stand just off the main road. They stopped at the four-in-one building where they thought they’d find me. Instead, they were promptly offered summer jobs. This is the magic of Ally and Blake. They can take a mistake and turn it into sunshine.
Later in the summer, the couple came over to our camp for dinner with me and The Man. A lovely time was had by all. The Man and I were invited into Gus the Bliss Bus and got to see the lifting of the amazing elevator bed and hear toilet system details.
A week before they left the mountain, I had the pleasure of interviewing Blake and Ally under the pines across the street from their place of employment. Unfortunately, that interview was lost when my phone was lost. Thankfully, Ally and Blake agreed to answer my questions again, this time in writing, via email.
In this interview the two of them tell about the best parts of life on the road, how they get alone time, and why they picked their rig.
Rubber Tramp Artist: Whose idea was it to hit the road?
Ally & Blake: Both really! It was a collaboration that came out of us talking about our visions of our ideal future together. We wanted to live life on our own terms which included an abundance of travel, time, and connection.
RTA: Was it difficult to convince the other person to live nomadically? How long did it take?
Ally & Blake: Convincing isn’t the right word for what happened. It was more of a “coming-to-Jesus” moment for both of us. We had talked about this lifestyle as a daydream that felt very far off. What moved us into action was that Ally’s desire to go to chiropractic school did not match up with our mutual financial goals to be debt free. We got real, evaluated what was most important to us at this time in our life and together we decided on freedom.
RTA: What work did each of you do before living nomadically?
Blake has worked a host of jobs from hotel manager to campaign manager to arts director to valet attendant. In 2016, Blake created his own coaching practice and is building a coaching company.
Ally, had just left her job working as the marketing director at a Chiropractic clinic and was slingin’ waffles at Waffle Brothers while we built the bus.
RTA: What skills from your previous work help you in your nomadic life?
Ally & Blake: Blake can back up that bus like a BOSS!! For both of us, making connections with people is our most valuable skill.
RTA: Y’all are quite a bit younger than many full-time nomads. What do you plan to do with the next 40+ years if you’re essentially retired in your 30s?
Ally & Blake: Blake’s been retired since his 20’s. 😉 We are going to keep following our bliss and utilize our nomadic lifestyle to make it happen. Our future dreams include building a coaching company and retreat centers along with finding creative ways to build community, serve others, and have fun!
RTA: What was the most difficult thing for each of you to give up when you left your conventional life behind?
Ally & Blake: For both of us, it was the feeling of certainty, security and Blake’s Harley VRod. And for Ally, it was the Vitamix.
RTA: What is the make and model of your rig?
Ford E450 Bluebird Microbird (A short Skoolie!)
RTA: Why did y’all choose this rig rather than a similarly sized motor home or a full-size school bus or some other sort of rig?
Ally & Blake: When we had our dog, we were going to build a teardrop trailer; however that meant he couldn’t sleep with us. Our vision expanded, and we looked at vans and buses. Finally we decided on a short bus because they are adorable and realistically we knew the engine was dependable and strong.
RTA: How did you decide on your floor plan?
Ally & Blake: First, we watched a LOT of YouTube videos. Second, we made a list of our need-to-haves. These included a shower, composting toilet, elevator bed, and a wood-burning stove.
RTA: What was the biggest challenge of your build?
Ally & Blake: Too much free beer and Blake’s worst-case-scenarios and over-planning. 😉 There are also SO many options and ways to do everything. We started with bare minimum construction knowledge and committing to one way to do something was nerve-racking and always took 10x longer than expected.
RTA: Tell me about your toilet set up.
Ally & Blake: We did not want to buy a Nature’s Head toilet because our budget did not allow for it. So we built our own! We built a wooden box that was hinged on top to allow access to the inside; we attached a regular toilet seat to the top of the box. There is also a vent from the box to the outside of the bus to keep the smell down. There is a bucket inside the box, as well as a container for urine, and a urine diverter from the UK. We use peat moss (found at Wal-Mart or hardware stores with a garden department like Home Depot) on the bottom of the bucket and use generous amounts to cover the poop. It is an intimate experience and not as bad as we imagined.
RTA: Do either of you ever feel like you can’t spend one more minute in the bus with the other person? How do you remedy the situation?
Ally & Blake: Yes, we have gotten to that point when the bus was broken down for almost three weeks. We each took a LOT of walks. Generally we communicate very well and take alone time where one person is on the bus doing their thing and the other is hanging outside doing theirs! We have learned that we also each need more independence than that. Therefore our goal for 2019 is to get a motorcycle.
RTA: I’d like for each of you to tell me three traits that the other person has that makes for a great vandwelling partner.
Blake says: Ally’s organization, patience and faith are amazing!
Ally says: Blake’s route planning skills, passion for beauty and adventure, and being an excellent and safe driver make him the best bus buddy.
RTA: Do you plan to expand your van family by having kids someday?
Ally & Blake: No. It’s not in the cards right now and not even another dog is feasible for us.
RTA: What are the best parts of your life on the road?
Ally & Blake: The romance of course! 😉 The thrill of seeing new places, meeting new people from all over the world, and being in touch with nature have been the best parts. This lifestyle is much more intimate on every level, and we don’t plan to get off the bus anytime soon.
You can follow Blake, Ally, and Gus the Bliss Buss @skool_of_life on Instagram.